It needs to be said that for a multi-day music event on a sustainable Oregon farm, the lineup for Pickathon 2007 has disproportionately few hippie bands. I know, when you think "Pickathon" you just assume jam bands masquerading as bluegrass acts, a seething mass of overnight-camping hippies, and the haunting sounds of a rambunctious drum circle echoing far off in the distance. It sure is a convenient stereotype, but this year's festivities are not only free of patchouli, they are a shining example of the thrilling evolution of indie-roots, and a somewhat new take on the—at times stagnant—world of bluegrass.
The Avett Brothers
To see the finest example of indie-roots in action, you need not look any further than the Avett Brothers. The North Carolina trio headlines the Pickathon, just another stop on the Brothers' (a tag which is not entirely true; the band is made up of siblings Seth and Scott Avett, plus third member, Bob Crawford) rapid ascension to the peaks of popularity. Known for their wildly creative take on bluegrass, they stray with ease, often finding themselves belting out early-Beatles pop harmonies, or dredging up brief moments of loud rock.
This evolved state of bluegrass didn't come easy. There were plenty of naysayers taking potshots at the band along the way. Says Scott Avett, "We played the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, and we got a lot of flack there. Of course, because at a place like that there's a lot of purism about what bluegrass is, and what it's about."
The trio's latest, Emotionalism, showcases the band at their apex, popular enough to perform on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, yet still so loyal to their fanbase that they are cramming two separate performances into one day at Pickathon, the second of which will be in a barn. It's a long way from their modest Southern roots listening to Top 40 music and playing in hard rock bands, to becoming icons in the indie-roots movement.
Explains Scott, "It's amazing how many younger people say, 'I bought a banjo because of you.' I heard it last night. I think that's just crazy. It's very flattering." He continues, "But when I was a younger man, talking about playing the banjo to me... it seemed like this backward thing that I'd never do."
Sun Aug 5, 8:30 pm at the Mt. View Stage & 1 am at the Galaxy Barn
Here are our other picks for the festival:
Gregory and the Hawk
No birds, or boys, here. Instead it's just Brooklyn-based songwriter Meredith Godreau, whose chilling debut, In Your Dreams, just might be the sweetest debut since Joanna Newsom's The Milk-Eyed Mender. Beat every other hipster to the punch and hop on this bandwagon as soon as possible.
Sat Aug 4, 1 pm at the In the Woods Stage, 6:30 pm at the Fir Meadows Stage, 11:15 pm at the Heartsong Late-Night Cabaret; Sun Aug 5, 2:30 pm at the Mt. View Stage, 5 pm at the Galaxy Barn
While the murder ballads of the Handsome Family will haunt your every dream, it's a fine price to pay for their gorgeous tales of rural life gone horrifically wrong. Whatever you do, don't go into the woods.
Sat Aug 4, 4 pm at the Mt. View Stage, 9 pm at the Galaxy Barn
Slim is a raucous frontman who, despite a songbook full of raging juke joint porch stompers, is actually from New York. Few performers can captivate a sweltering crowd with gin-soaked country punk, only to stop them dead in their boots with a few soft ballads that could draw a tear to the eye of even the toughest cowboy.
Fri Aug 3, 8 pm at the Fir Meadows Stage; Sat Aug 4, 5:30 pm at the Mt. View Stage, 1 am at the Galaxy Barn
Horse Feathers get plenty of press, and deservingly so, but in a club setting it always seems like something is missing. Pickathon gives the band an opportunity to take their barren sound outside of the city limits, placing them in space called the "Galaxy Barn." Get ready for what I can only assume is a rustic, if not downright cosmic, experience.
Sat Aug 4, 6 pm at the Galaxy Barn, 9:30 pm at the Fir Meadows Stage
Pickathon, Pendarvis Farm, 16581 SE Hagen, Happy Valley, OR, Fri-Sun Aug 3-5, $55-95, pickathon.com